Sunday, June 01, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Divorcee (1930)

Ted (Chester Morris) and Jerry (Norma Shearer) marry and have three happy years together; then Jerry discovers Ted has been unfaithful. Since Ted claims repeatedly "It doesn't mean a thing," Jerry decides to turn the tables and emulate Ted's behavior. Unfortunately, Jerry soon finds that she is THE DIVORCEE.

Norma Shearer is fascinating in the title role. It's a compelling performance which commands the viewer's complete attention. Shearer won the Oscar for Best Actress for this film; her competition included her own performance in THEIR OWN DESIRE, previously reviewed here. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing.

Robert Montgomery shines in a supporting role as Ted's best friend who yearns for Jerry. It's a sharp, funny performance which helped launch Montgomery on the road to stardom as one of MGM's most popular leading men of the '30s. Shearer and Montgomery costarred in five films, including the aforementioned THEIR OWN DESIRE. I found Montgomery's supporting performance as the cynical yet seductive comedian in Ted and Jerry's "crowd" more interesting than that of Chester Morris as Ted. Morris is adequate in his role but doesn't linger in the memory as Shearer and Montgomery do.

It's interesting that Montgomery seems to be not as well remembered as some other actors today, despite his stardom and his many accomplishments, including two Best Actor nominations, heading the Screen Actors Guild, serving as a Navy Commander during WWII, winning a Tony for directing on Broadway, and pioneering in early television. I've noticed that on at least a couple of video boxes, he was demoted by marketers to third billing, despite the fact that he was first billed on screen in the actual movies. It's been a great pleasure for me to discover many of his films for the first time in recent months.

The supporting cast includes Conrad Nagel, Helene Millard, Florence Eldridge, and Mary Doran.

THE DIVORCEE runs 84 minutes. It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard.

This film can be seen on DVD as part of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 2. The DVD includes a good commentary track by Jeffrey Vance and Tony Maietta. The movie is also available on video and can be seen on cable on TCM.


Blogger Terri said...

I just LOVE Norma! Ever since I first saw "The Women" (still my favorite of her films).

Robert Montgomery...not so much, though I think he's a fine actor.

I really enjoy your movie reviews. The old movies are so much more interesting to me then 99% of the new films coming out of Hollywood.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Terri!

I'm definitely becoming a Shearer fan as well. :) I've seen just four of her films thus far; I have two more here I'm looking forward to seeing.

Thank you for letting me know you enjoy the reviews! It's wonderful being able to share my love of movies via blogging, and perhaps help to point readers in the direction of movies which will interest them.

I agree with you -- there are usually a mere handful of new movies which interest me each year. Happily we have hundreds of older titles to enjoy. :)

Best wishes,

8:19 AM  

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